Commandant Hugo Chбvez

The flag is lowered over the Belarusian President’s Residence, honouring the passing of a kind and reliable friend of our country. We are mourning... as the fate of remote Venezuela’s leader is bound closely with Belarus’ recent history. Hugo Chбvez Frнas confessed his respect and sympathy for our nation and remained faithful to his words until the end, true to everything of which he spoke.
Last June, I saw Mr. Chбvez for the final time, during Alexander Lukashenko’s official visit to Venezuela, a few months before the presidential elections. Mr. Chбvez had been struggling with illness for over a year, twice being operated upon. He’d endured chemotherapy and radiotherapy but remained full of energy. He adhered to the norms of protocol but his personality continued to show through during a long TV interview with Mr. Lukashenko. Taking a leading role, the live broadcast went out to millions of citizens — including those in regions where Belarusian specialists have been working on projects. Mr. Chбvez’s sincerity was clear to all.

At end of the broadcast, Mr. Lukashenko left Miraflores Palace but the Venezuelan president continued chatting with journalists for several hours. Translators were hardly needed, since his facial expressions told their own story, as did the tone of his voice. His words penetrated the soul, making it clear why his nation loved him.

Hugo was sincere and fair, never wheedling or currying favour. He openly mentioned enemies and friends: the former hated him furiously while the latter loved him passionately. Nobody could be indifferent to him. If he named someone his ‘friend’, it was forever and he would move mountains in their support. For Belarus, this took the form of the supply of Venezuelan oil to Belarus during a difficult period. Analysts on both sides of the ocean sneered at the project but Mr. Chбvez simply loaded tanks and sent them across the Atlantic — saving Belarusian plants from being shut down.

Mr. Chбvez was decisive and obstinate in every respect. He believed in the ideals of his struggle — even after his first loss in the early 1990s, which brought imprisonment. This only strengthened his mission however: to bring happiness and prosperity to his country, friends and neighbours in Latin America. He was eager to unite states, in the name of mutual support, while enabling them to keep their independence. He was a true patriot and an authoritative leader. Unsurprisingly, not only Venezuela is mourning; neighbouring Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador are grieving...

Many wonder why Mr. Chбvez did not retire from politics on learning of his illness. Why did he run for president that last time, using his precious strength?  Only Mr. Chбvez knows the real answer but we do know that his life was dedicated to the ideals of socialism. I’m convinced that he could leave only as a winner. Such people are respected and remembered.
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